The Most Important Skill in Business

After twenty five years in the business community I have yet to deal with a corporation without dealing with people. It is people who start companies, invest in them, work for them, benefit from them, and get hurt by them if things go wrong. A corporation separate from people is like a body without a soul, just a discarded corpse. Corporations are nothing if not people. So learning to deal with people may be the most important skill any business professional must develop. In business people will be your employees, your customers, your competition, your bankers. Even the IRS is really just a bunch of people. Scary people, but people.

Once, while trying to help a young lady caught in a very bureaucratic organization, I found myself being blocked by the same policy at every turn. I understood the policy and I understood that it applied, but I refused to belief that its current application was in line with its original intent. So I asked one of the managers if they were happy about the direction the situation was going. She quickly expressed her regret about the current state of the case before lamenting that her hands were tied. After all, she had to follow policy. I agreed that it was a good policy, put in place for a good reason, then I asked her if she believed that the person who wrote the policy intended for it to be the cause of a situation like this. I said, “We’re not machines. We are two people who both see something bad happening. We can work together to change that.” Fifteen minutes later I received a phone call from her boss saying they had reversed their decision and would decide in favor of my young friend. Sometimes corporations just need to be reminded that they are people.

At Credo we engage in training called, “Understanding People.” We explore the strengths, weaknesses, fears, and communication styles, of each personality type. It helps leaders better understand and develop their team members. It helps sales and customer service people identify what sort of customer they are dealing with so they can more effectively serve them.  And it helps managers identify their personal blind spots so they can augment their weaknesses by hiring or outsourcing. Every company needs to spend time remembering that business is just a bunch of people.

Whatever business you are in, people will be an unavoidable constant. The better you understand them, the better you can lead, cooperate with, or sell to them.



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